Neither Guns nor Mental Illness

Asperger's syndrome

"The Stone" is the philosophy blog of the New York Times.  Its motto, "a forum for contemporary philosophers on issues both timely and timeless," speaks to the inner philosopher in all of us.  We always provide a rebuttal in The Paper whenever "The Stone" publishes a new post.

This week, The Stone will be posting a "series of essays . . . that examine the ethical, social and humanitarian implications on the use, possession and regulation of weapons."  Yesterday's piece by Christy Wampole, associate professor of French at Princeton University and hipster/non-hipster identifies the generic mass killer as a young white man.

It seems as Christy has been hanging around her angry racist and sexist relatives judging by her statement that declares:

I come from a small town near Fort Worth, Texas.  In this region, like many others across the United States, young men are having a very hard time of it.  When I consider how all of the people I knew there are faring, including my own family members, the women have come out considerably better than the men.

and continues:

young men in the region, who are often absent fathers of multiple children by multiple women, unemployed or underemployed, sullen and full of rage.  While every woman in my family has done O.K. in the end, every man on one side of my family except for my grandfather has spent time in jail, abused drugs or alcohol, suffered from acute depression, or all of the above.  Furthermore, pervasive methamphetamine use, alcoholism, physical and psychological abuse and severe depression have swept not only my hometown and my region but large segments of the United States.  If this pattern is not familiar to you personally, I am certain it is the lived experience of someone you know.

Hey thanks for lifting my spirits Christy.  Unfortunately Christy did not do any research on the topic because as soon as I did a search for mass killings by year I came across this article that for some reason spans two pages.  Click on the second page to take a look at the faces of people that committed mass killings since 1982 and that is only in the United States.  Do you see what I see, and apparently Christy does not?  I see plenty of young white men, but also old white men, several black men, Asians, and even a woman.  So all Christy needs to do to get some "research" on mass shootings is go to the white male convention by Fort Worth that is the small town she hails from.  Either that, or Christy is being ironic, LOL.

Here is another list that includes worldwide mass killings.  And here is an article identifying that mass killings are not any more common now than they used to be when, as Christy says, white men ruled the world.  And for a truly comprehensive list one can check the article from Wikipedia.  So when we look at all these mass killers we see that they come from all backgrounds, whether racial, ethnic, or even socioeconomic.  Christy's theory falls apart within just a handful of minutes of searching the internet.  It seems Christy is too hipster to do research beyond reading 140 character posts on microblogs, watching idiot reporters on the television, and talking to her pissed off relatives.  Looking at some of the older mass killings, today's seem quite tame.  But who cares about history?  Irony is all that matters.

I cannot even believe that this nonsense is on the "philosophy blog" of the New York Times.  But anyway I will simply point out some of the more obvious flaws in Christy's "thought experiment."  She does point out that the statements above are anecdotal and not social science but she believes, "that it [the anecdotal evidence] is indicative of a sort of infection spreading in our collective brain, one that whispers to the American subconscious [how long did it take her to string together this series of meaninglessness?]: 'The young men are in decline.'"  I could quote the rest of the paragraph but just go and read it for yourselves.  It really gets even more nonsensical.

The following paragraph identifies the paragons of success that some young men are.  Among this group she includes "the sharply dressed bank[st]ers."  Poor poor Christy Wampole.  I do not even know where to go from here.  It just gets more tragic as she goes on.  Black men kill convenience store clerks, white men partake in large scale death-sprees.  The links provided above dispute the latter.  Growing up in New York City during some of its more notorious years I can tell you her store clerk declaration is just as invalid.

Towards the end she somehow redeems herself by identifying the true reasons why someone picks up a weapon that can spread so much death and proceeds to massacre.  It is lack of power and empathy, but not in the racially constructed way Christy proffers.  As an aside, I highly recommend reading this piece on a young lady's perspective on her brother's path to homicide.  Really well thought out and explains how it is one's daily experiences and the compounding sense of loss that leads people to do what they normally would not.  Nobody is a monster as the media would have you believe.

I would also like to point out that looking at the lists above, making guns more difficult to obtain will not stop mass killings (even though I am not a gun proponent).  Quite frankly, it may make them more gruesome if you read through what people without access to guns were capable of doing.  I was really disappointed to read everywhere that the killer suffered from Asperger's syndrome and making that sound like it is some kind of evil possession.  Take a look at this video and try to spot people with the syndrome.  Surely dehumanizing these people would probably mean less advancement in science and the arts.  Simplifying these horrific events to "guns and crazies" is a complete disservice to identifying how we can become a better more functioning society.  The reasons the people in the above lists killed are as diverse as the people that did the killing.  Christy does recognize this and for that I give her credit.  However, she unfortunately frames it in some gender/race competition which really hurts her argument.  Hopefully Christy will do some research before she offers up her opinions based entirely on anecdotal evidence.  Because she does ultimately find some of the core causes, and there are far more, but mainly a feeling of powerlessness and a lack of empathy in their lives are what cause otherwise "normal" human beings to lash out in such a horrific manner.

Image courtesy of irina slutsky.



Profile photo of cardstandcardstand
December 19th, 2012  1:42 AM

You could have just written the last two paragraphs to get the point across.

    Profile photo of MyNameIsMeMyNameIsMe
    December 19th, 2012  2:05 AM

    I think all the previous paragraphs were needed in order for him to point out how specious some of her arguments were. Anyway, this was a good read and I liked your coverage on this topic more than most places.

Profile photo of FlossyFlossy
December 19th, 2012  11:53 AM

I am really liking the long form pieces, but do not forget that you guys do humor well, so do not leave that behind.

Profile photo of blybly
December 19th, 2012  12:27 PM

I don’t think she redeems herself at all. Looking through the non-gun mass killings makes me feel very uncomfortable. We really need to address despair in this world. I wonder if the animal kingdom suffers from this malaise. Up until I saw the international list I thought mass killings were unique to the US or at least to the West. Thanks for broadening my understanding of this.

Profile photo of photog17photog17
December 19th, 2012  1:36 PM

“indicative of a sort of infection spreading in our collective brain, one that whispers to the American subconscious”

I have to use this somewhere.